Thursday, April 24, 2014

Alex P. Keaton teaches about taxes

I'm teaching about taxes in my principles of microeconomics course.  This is an entertaining clip of Alex P. Keaton (played by Michael J. Fox) trying to teach kids about taxes.




I only wish it were true that we could trust all Republicans to fight the hairy tax monster!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I am teaching online courses this summer

I'll be teaching online courses this summer at Susquehanna University.  I am teaching both in the "intensive" session, where the course is taught over a 4-week period (it is intense), and in the regular summer session.  Here is my schedule:

Four-week session (May 12 to June 7)
ECON-105-M1
Elements of Economics

ECON-202-M1
Principles of Microeconomics


Seven-week  (June 9 to July 26)
ECON-201-J1
Principles of Macroeconomics

ECON-202-J1
Principles of Microeconomics


If you are potentially interested in taking a course but have questions, feel free to contact me. 

To get a sense of what the class might be like, here's a video for game theory portion of the course:



Friday, April 18, 2014

Ridiculous Easter picture related to the economy

I saw this picture the other day ...


Sigh.

Should we inform the leftists that distribute this picture that Jesus didn't violate one of the 10-commandments (thou shall not steal, i.e., tax) when he fed people?


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Weight loss bet -- another update

While I've already won the bet I placed (started at 212.5, down to 202 after 26 days), I've continued with my good habits.  (I have tried to workout a bit more and use portion control while eating, but the biggest thing is my dramatic increase in apples and pears for snacks.)

My last weigh-in before this one was on Wednesday, March 26th at 202.  This was Wednesday, April 16th:



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Restrictions on earning a living - Uber edition

Last spring we had Timothy Sandefur present on "The Right to Earn a Living", and he discussed many cases where governments restrict job opportunities.  This is often done to protect companies already in the industry, but they usually claim it's for consumers' well being.  The two opeds in the USA today this week really highlight this issue.

First, the oped on the case for Uber:

Excerpt 1:
Now there's a profusion of alternative ride-sharing companies such as Lyft, Sidecar and the best-known one, Uber. Uber's increasingly popular, least-expensive UberX service enlists thousands of owners of small, late-model cars to cruise the streets of 96 cities in the U.S. and abroad, waiting to be summoned through a smartphone app.
And later:
Amid the wave of controversy, two principles ought to drive the policy process going forward.
One is that any business that carries people for hire should be subject to some basic rules to protect the public. Under heavy pressure, Uber has increased insurance coverage, but its background checks look back just seven years, and it appears to accept the safety checks that apply only to personal vehicles rather than commercial ones.
The second is that more competition is better than less. 

Uber, Lyft and other "ride sharing" companies are violating the laws and regulations that govern for-hire transportation everywhere they operate. In fact, ignoring the law is crucial to their success. They are competing unfairly with traditional taxi businesses that abide by the law, while endangering the jobs of thousands of small-business owners.
And
You, dear reader, should find it sickening that the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by these companies are being used to undermine small businesses. The profits from these investments are earned on the backs of an industry made up largely of immigrant drivers.
Uber and the like are simply not what they claim to be. They are not ride sharing, and they are de facto (unlicensed/uninsured) taxis. Calling them ride-sharing companies is simply misleading, because they don't "share" rides, but charge for them exactly as most taxis do.

My thoughts:

1. The opposition to Uber here is typical.  They're from the industry that wants to protect their higher wages.  But they're claiming it's in the interest of the public safety and there should be licensing.

2. The opposition seems to ignore that the drivers of Uber cars are also "small businesses".  So while it's true that they're trying to take market share away from traditional cabs, and in that sense "undermine small businesses", the same could be said for every other small business that's competing in the marketplace.  The local Applebees seeks to undermine the mom-and-pop diner.

3. I disagree with the pro-Uber argument that " business that carries people for hire should be subject to some basic rules to protect the public".  Let the marketplace decide.  If some people want to take more risks but pay less, that's fine.  People make those choices every day when they work construction jobs (instead of paying less, they "make more" to take a greater risk, but it's the same principle) or drive a car that isn't rated as the safest to save money. 

I've also found it laughable (but sad) that taxicab drivers would get licenses in the first place.  It's a case of crony capitalism.  With a license, you can make more money, so politicians have more power (and often can be bribed).  That, unfortunately, will likely mean many cities will ban Uber.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Assorted Links

1. This NY Daily News oped cites my Forbes article

Excerpt:
Here we go again. In 2014, Democrats are at it once more, introducing symbolic bills that don’t solve women’s problems, all to paint a ridiculously unfair caricature that the Republicans are waging a war on women.

 2. Natural gas exports poised for takeoff

Excerpt:
The USA now produces more natural gas than any other country. Yet Russia, the second largest producer, is the world's top net exporter, followed by Qatar and Norway.
The reason: U.S. law requires export facilities get a "public interest" approval from the Department of Energy if their buyers are located in countries that haven't signed a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Non-FTA countries include all European nations as well as China, India and Japan.
.
3. Jayson Lusk on how eating organic foods doesn't reduce cancer risk 

These findings mesh well with other research I've pointed to in the past noting that food pesticide are a relatively small risk in the grand scheme of things. 


Monday, April 7, 2014

Let's eliminate the minimum wage for teenagers - my newest oped in Forbes

Link here

Excerpt:
But this law has a devastating impact on teenagers, who aren’t trying to raise a family.  In 2013, 16-19 year olds had an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent.  Workers in every other wage group suffered much lower rates of unemployment. If it weren’t for the minimum wage, we would expect these rates to be much more equal.  The minimum wage’s impact is far worse for African Americans, who often are enrolled in failing, union-controlled, government school districts and are more likely to be raised by a single parent. The unemployment rate among African-American teenagers was about 40% in 2013!